•Free, fair election doubtful, says CAN leadership
•Next year’s polls won’t be manipulated, president assures W’African elders
Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, yesterday, asked Nigerians to hold President Muhammadu Buhari to his word that he would ensure peaceful and credible election in 2023.
But the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Co-Chairman of NIREC, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, said there were still doubts being expressed by people about Nigeria’s capacity and political will to conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful elections next year.
This, nonetheless, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, ruled out the possibility that the 2023 general election could be manipulated.
But the Sultan, who was the Co-Chairman of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC),said, during the NIREC 4th Quarter 2022 meeting in Abuja that president Buhari’s firm promise to deliver a credible election next year should serve enough reason for Nigerians to feel free to exercise their civic duties and vote for a candidate of their choice.
He dismissed the notion that 2023 election was a make or break for Nigeria, stating that it was only God that could decide the fate of Nigeria.
“The other day the president visited Sokoto Palace and said openly of his commitment to peaceful, credible election in Nigeria, he directed the military and other security forces to ensure peaceful, free and fair election. If the president had said so, will anybody go and do otherwise. If he said so, I have no reason not to believe him,” he said.
The Sultan, who said a lot of people were disturbed by the alarm raised by foreign nations about the situation in Nigeria, said some of the foreign countries raising the alarms about problems in Nigeria had more serious issues to contend with.
“We know we have our own problems here but we are better than some of the countries in Europe. These European countries we think are better than us, they are not better than us. The only thing is that their systems work. If we make our system to work, we will be better than them.
“Let’s stop looking at what Americans do, what the Europeans do and what the Asians do. Let’s develop our home grown initiatives that will make this country better,” he said.
On the fears that the 2023 election would be make or break election for Nigeria, Sultan said: “I don’t believe in that, I refuse to believe in that. It is just an election; people will go out, cast their vote in peace and whoever emerges the leader will be the leader of this country.
“So, I don’t believe it is a make or break election, and we must not play into the hands of those elements of Nigeria, who keep on parading those issues as this is the election that will decide the fate of this nation, only Allah decides the fate of this country.”
The royal father charged politicians and the electorate to go out and campaign peacefully and that whenever the elections come up, they elect the leader they thought was for Nigeria and the rest would be left to almighty Allah.
The CAN president said serious questions and doubts were still being raised about the country’s capacity and political will to conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful elections next year.
He said since independence in 1960, violence and electoral irregularities had become constant features of the process of electing the country’s leaders and the most worrisome point was always the number of deaths often recorded in the process.
“Politics of corruption, intimidation, exclusion and violence are now regarded by some elements in the society as necessary weapons of political victory in our country. This ugly trend robs the Nigerian voters of the opportunity to freely choose their leaders.
“As we navigate the process to the 2023 general election, the world is watching to see if there will be a relatively peaceful transition, or a repeat of the familiar ugly past always filled with pre-and post-electoral violence.
“As a faith leader, I am convinced that this ugly history of pre-or post-electoral violence will not be repeated if we all decide to halt the trend through strategic conversation that appeals to the conscience of the political class like we are doing here today.
“All these make the process tense, frightening and disenfranchising to the weak and feeble-minded. There is no doubt in my mind that the 2023 general election hold the key to our national renaissance, freedom from insecurity, economic subjugation and all other social vices that have dotted our ugly past.
On his part, the Secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, expressed delight that the meeting came at a time, when the nation was preparing for its general election, which was expected to be free, fair and credible and eventually translate into national rebirth.
He commended the leadership of NIREC for their support in stabilising the nation, and charged them to do more especially, as the country is preparing for its general election next year.
He affirmed that President Buhari had promised Nigerians and the international communities of overseeing a peaceful and credible election, which would usher in new government in 2023.
However, Buhari, while playing host to West African Elders Forum Pre-Election Mediation Mission, led by former Sierra Leonean President, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, at the State House, Abuja, reiterated for the umpteenth time, that the 2023 general election would be free, fair and credible, as manipulations would not be allowed in any form.
“Thank you for accepting to do this service for our sub-region,” President Buhari told his guests, citing some of the off-season elections held in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States, as pointer to the fact that the federal government would allow people to choose leaders they want.
According to him, “That right is guaranteed, we are settling down, and making progress. People should vote whoever they want, in whatever party.
“We shall not allow anyone to use money and thugs to intimidate the people. Nigerians know better now, they are wiser, and know that it is better to dialogue than to carry weapons. Elections are even more difficult to rig now.”
Earlier, Koroma, who led a team made of Fatoumata Tambajang, former Vice President of The Gambia, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, former Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, and Ann Iyonu, Executive Director of Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, said they had met with stakeholders across the parties, civil society, and Independent National Electoral Commission, among others, “and we commend you for making it clear both locally and internationally that the elections would be free and fair.”
He commended Buhari for not listening to voices that might have tried to convince him to seek a third term in office, against the laws of the country, noting that, “other countries look up to Nigeria for direction. When we had issues in Sierra Leone and Liberia, it was Nigeria that came in to stabilize the system.
He urged the Nigerian leader to look into other areas of concern as raised by the stakeholders, including security, and issues that might cast doubts on the clarity and credibility of the elections.”
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